Motorola's latest Android Wear watch is its first focused on fitness, though in practice it's really only good for running.
The original Moto 360 was the one of that first batch of Android Wear watches that set the tech world abuzz. With a clean and considered design and a (mostly) round face next to the staid square displays from LG and Samsung, Motorola's watch was downright sexy. Motorola improved on that formula with its second-generation Moto 360, and now we finally have the long-promised fitness-oriented variant: the Moto 360 Sport. But how does it hold up?
The quick take
The Moto 360 Sport is, at it's core, a second-generation Moto 360, but with a few alterations. It's got a body wrapped in a silicone strap, a GPS chip stuffed inside for smartphone-free exercising, and a new display that promises easy visibility in the sun. But while Motorola slapped the name "sport" on this watch, it's really more a running watch than anything. Mediocre battery life and a design that screams fitness band compromise the Moto 360 Sport's potential.
- Reflective display performs great in the sun
- Silicone body and strap built for fitness
- Integrated GPS for phone-free run tracking
- Battery struggles to get through a day
- Fitness features underdeveloped
- Silicone picks up every piece of lint and hair
- Ambient display has no backlighting
About this review
I (Derek Kessler) used the Moto 360 Sport for roughly one week, wearing it in place of my standard Moto 360 (2015). During this time the watch was paired with a BlackBerry Priv running Android 5.1.1. The watch was also running Android 5.1.1 (build LCB43C) and did not receive any updates during the review period.
The first Moto 360 Sport unit we received from Motorola suffered from poor battery performance, never lasting longer than 5 hours on a full charge. Motorola replaced that unit (a white one you'll see pictured in this review), and the majority of this review was conducted using the replacement watch (a black unit you'll also see pictured in this review).
Moto 360 Sport Full Review
Android Wear smartwatches are coming up on their first full year of availability and we've seen a very nice growth in the variety of watches available. From the square-faced ASUS ZenWatch to the round Moto 360, LG Watch Urbane and Fossil Q Founder to the pricey but oh-so-nice TAG Heuer Connected.
These watches have gotten nicer and nicer, to the point where walking around with a Moto 360 or Huawei Watch on your wrist at a formal function won't draw scorn (at least until you raise your wrist and say "OK, Google" into it). But as these watches have gotten nicer they've also moved away from compatibility with active lifestyles. You don't want to take a leather-banded Moto 360 out on a run — it'll flop around on your wrist and your inevitable sweating will ruin the leather. A metal link band Fossil Q Founder? Don't be silly.
And so that's why we now have the Moto 360 Sport. It essentially takes the smaller 42mm Moto 360 (2015) and wraps it in a silicone shell. Throw in a display that's supposed to be better for use in sunlight, a GPS chip, and some custom software for fitness stuff and you've got the Moto 360 Sport. There's really only one other Android Wear smartwatch that you can compare it to, and that's the Sony Smartwatch 3.
A smartwatch that's trying to be a sport watch
Moto 360 Sport Hardware
As we've said earlier, the bits and pieces that went into the Moto 360 Sport are essentially the same as the 42mm Moto 360 (2015). It has a circular 35mm 360x325 display under a sheet of Gorilla Glass 3, and like previous Motorola smartwatches it has a black "flat tire" bar under the display for housing the ambient light sensor.
While many of us were (and still are) willing to give Motorola a pass on the flat tire, today that's harder to excuse. Samsung's Gear S2 smartwatch has a circular display as well, and it also has an ambient light sensor for automatic brightness adjustment — the sensor is in the middle of the display. You can hardly see it when the watch face is off, and when it's on it disappears in the glow of the screen. But because the Moto 360 Sport is a variation of the current-generation Moto 360, that it inherited the same basic layout isn't unexpected.
That familiarity extends to the hardware layout. The single side button is located on the right side, sitting at about the 2 o'clock position. Motorola's swapped out the shiny metallic buttons for one that's plastic and etched with a grippy grid. It's also a much tighter button than on the more formal Moto 360, inheriting none of the wiggle (but all of the spin).
Inside is a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU, 4GB of internal storage, and 512MB of RAM. The battery's the same 300mAh as before, and it charges using the same Qi-compatible dock as the other Moto 360. There's even the same optical PPG heart rate monitor on the backside.
The Moto 360 Sport's "AnyLight Display" is a screen you should be able to see in, well, any light.
Up to this point we're talking about a watch that's practically identical to the standard Moto 360. And while there definitely are similarities in the silicon, there are some notable differences, too (and we're talking about more than the silicone with an 'e'). The Moto 360 Sport adds in a GPS chip that's used for more precise location tracking while you're running/hiking/walking/whatevering without from your phone. The Moto 360 Sport is the second Android Wear watch to offer a GPS chip, with the only other option being the underappreciated Sony Smartwatch 3.
The display is also different with the Moto 360 Sport. While it's the same size and resolution as the 42mm Moto 360, the Sport's display swaps LCD for a so-called "AnyLight Hybrid Display." And while that's definitely corporate branding, it gets the point across: this is a display you should be able to see in, well, any light.
Motorola accomplishes that by combining a traditional backlit LCD (in technical parlance, a "transmissive" display, as the light transmits through the colored pixels) with a reflective backing (like an old-school black-and-white LCD watch). If you've used any Android Wear smartwatch in sunlight, you've probably noticed that while the backlight can get bright enough to compensate for the sun while in active mode, the watch tends to trend towards unreadable in ambient mode — it just goes black under the pounding rays of our sun. This holds true whether we're talking about a LCD display or OLED (while we're being technical, these are "emissive" displays — there's no backlight as the pixels themselves are emitting the light).
But the AnyLight display has a reflective gray layer underneath those pixels, so any that are white (i.e. clear/open for light to pass through) can reflect back sunlight and you get a visible light gray. That means there's no need for the backlight at all during ambient mode when outside, which should in theory help improve the battery life.
There's just one issue: the disabled backlight that's great for viewing the AnyLight display in the sun makes it a pain to view when you're indoors. My office has a large bank of windows looking out on my back yard; even with the ambient sunlight coming through that window (filtered through cloud cover and the bare branches of winter trees) and amble interior lighting, the Moto 360 Sport in its backlight-free ambient mode was nigh unreadable. That gray that's bright and legible under direct sunlight darkens to about a quarter of the distance between black and white. There's no at-a-glance registering the time here because you have to stop and focus to read the faint dark-gray-on-black text.
The Moto 360 Sport's display is also of lesser general quality than the standard Moto 360. While that watch offers a display with dark-enough blacks (not pitch-black OLED dark, but still dark), bright whites, and nicely-saturated colors, the Moto 360 Sport only matches that mark when you look at it face-on. Any off-angle viewing of the AnyLight display starts washing out immediately. Whites are darker, blacks are lighter, colors pop less, and overall it starts feeling cheap. I don't know if this is because of the reflective backing on the AnyLight display or if there's an air gap between the glass cover and display that's causing internal reflections here. Either way, it's disappointing.
Unlike most other Android Wear smartwatches, the Moto 360 Sport's silicone bands are integrated with the body.
Around that circular display is a metal bezel, roughly 5mm in width. That ring of metal has two finishes — the inner half slopes in a bit with a smooth-but-unpolished while the outer half is highly polished and etched with with a ring of radiating lines that have been swept clockwise. The outer edge of the bezel has a crisp corner to it, though it's not exactly sharp. On the underside of the Moto 360 Sport you'll find the same glossy black circular plate as on the standard Moto 360, with the same green-light heart rate monitor dead center.
Wrapping around the sides of the Moto 360 Sport and extending from the top and bottom is the silicone that makes up the straps. Unlike almost the majority of Android Wear smartwatches (excepting the Samsung Gear Live and the now-dead LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE), the Moto 360 Sport's bands are integrated with the body. This silicone sheathing is adhered to the main watch and not removable, so you better be happy with your color choice.
The silicone itself is soft to the touch and stretchy. It's not quite medical-grade, but it'll stand up to your repeated sweating and a light washing a lot better than any of the leather straps you can get on other Android Wear watches. Both ends of the strap have slots that run almost all the way to the face, both for the metal buckle's center post and for ventilation. Because the strap is a bit on the thick side, the slots are angled and the post easily slides in when you're putting on the watch. Combined with the rubber's stretchiness it took a few days to get used to putting on — frequently the first attempt ended up being too tight.
The silicone body and straps pick up every single bit of lint, dust, and hair — it's impossible to keep clean.
While the silicone is nice for sanitary purposes, there area few downsides. One is the obvious seam that runs along the entire perimeter of the watch — along the edges of the strap ends and around the outside of the casing. It's visible on both the white and black models, and raised enough that you can feel it running your finger over it. Granted, you're not likely to be spending a lot of time rubbing the sides of your watch, but given how Motorola has historically prided themselves on the small details, it's a surprising thing to let slip through.
The downside to the silicone you'll notice more often, however, is how it picks up every single bit of loose dust, lint, and hair that comes into its general vicinity. This is a watch that is impossible to keep clean. The glass cover is easy enough to wipe clear of fingerprints and sweat, but the soft silicone strap is not.
The nugget of a good idea
Moto 360 Sport Software
Let's get this out of the way: This is an Android Wear watch, and thus the vast majority of the experience on this watch is what you would get from any Android Wear watch. You get your notifications, you get a few limited-use apps, you get your choice of an ever-growing number of watch faces. So instead of going over Android Wear another time, let's talk about what the Moto 360 Sport does that's unique, and that's fitness.
Well, not so much fitness as it is running. The fitness features of the Moto 360 Sport are geared almost exclusively around running. If you want to do swimming or yoga or lifting, then the custom software here isn't going to help you (the Moto 360 Sport's not waterproof anyway, so don't swim with it).
The first indication of the custom software is the default launch face, one geared towards fitness. It places a digital clock in the center of the display with the rest divided into four quadrants, clockwise from the top: steps, a repeating 60-second timer, calories burned, and heart activity minutes. Of course your heart is always active (otherwise you'd likely have more important things on your mind than reading this review), so the heart activity minutes are a measure of when your heart's been active above your baseline normal. If you're just going about your day without any heart-pounding activity, that'll stay right at zero.
Tapping each of the quadrants will take you to a details screen for that measurement. Steps tells you what your goal for the day was, what you did yesterday, and what you managed today in steps and distance, as well as an overview of how you've done over the week. Tapping the 60-second timer opens a single-purpose stopwatch: tap once to start, tap again to pause, tap the reset button to reset.
The calorie indicator displays your "active" calories, and the mini-app you get on tapping will tell you the total, your active calories plus the "resting" calories you burn by just being alive. It's worth noting that you'll burn through about 1700-1800 calories on average doing next to nothing, so it doesn't take a lot of exercise to take care of the remaining calories in the recommended 2000-calorie-a-day diet.
That the Moto 360 Sport is really only of use for running seriously limits its usefulness as a sport watch.
When it comes to the running software itself, there's little doubt this is focused exclusively on runners. While we'll advocate that cardio exercises like running are the best way to improve overall fitness, there's a lot more to exercise than running. That the Moto 360 Sport is really only of use for running seriously limits its usefulness as a sport watch.
In the center of the fitness watch face, right under the time (and frustratingly hidden under whatever your most recent notification might be) is a start button. Tapping that opens the run logging app, though for a feature that's supposed to get you to exercising quickly it can be frustratingly slow to load. You're prompted to select indoors or outdoors (primarily to determine whether or not GPS will be used to log your progress, and then given the option to just jump straight into a run or set goals of time, distances, or calorie burn.
Every option directs you to the same status display, with the distance you've run taking up the largest portion of the display, with the time that you've been running and your pace below. Swiping to the screens to the right will give you detailed heart rate information and a larger time. Confusingly, selecting a calorie burn target doesn't tell you anywhere what progress you've made in burning those calories, even in the post-run summary (you get time, distance, average pace, and best pace regardless of your option).
All of this data is logged with the Moto Body app on your phone. Moto Body gives you an overview of how you've done today and historical stats. It also lets you share the data collected with other fitness apps like Google Fit, Fitbit, Under Armour, and Stava.
It's worth noting that the app launched here by the watch face is named Moto Body Running, so it is entirely possible that Motorola could release additional Moto Body [Exercise] apps for the Moto 360 Sport to expand its capabilities, but for the time being it's pretty limited.
Moto 360 2015 review
The original 2014 edition of the Moto 360 was the most popular of the first Android Wear smartwatches thanks to its circular design and low price. But a year later it's facing stiffer competition with an updated and improved design. Is it still the smartwatch to get?
Pain points of style, longevity, and functionality
Moto 360 Sport in real life
While we've talked a lot about the fitness aspects of the Moto 360 Sport here, those are a part of the watch you're going to use on a limited basis. Unless you're a professional runner (in which case it should be abundantly clear by now that this is not the watch for you), the Moto 360 Sport is going to spend most of its time on your wrist being a typical Android Wear watch. Which is to say that it's going to deliver notifications to your wrist, track basic health stats (steps, heart rate, etc) throughout the day, and offer access to a suite of mini-apps tied to your phone.
In that role the Moto 360 Sport is generally competent, though it was surprisingly buggy during our testing period. While there are some understandable differences between it and the standard Moto 360 it's based on, there's also far more that the two watches have in common, which makes the stability and responsiveness issues we saw even more vexing. More than once Android Wear crashed outright — it offered the option to tap an "OK" button, but seeing as the system itself had crashed, that button was entirely unresponsive and a 25-second press of the side button was the only choice to reboot the watch (perhaps that's something Android should consider putting into that error message).
On multiple occasions throughout the day the Moto 360 Sport would fail to respond to touch or button inputs, or would simply go completely dark for several seconds before finally waking. It was also frequently slow to wake when the wrist gestures to do so were applied. Other times it responded to our touch almost instantly without hesitation. Oddly, despite having the same processor and RAM as the standard second-generation Moto 360, the Sport version offered a noticeably higher frame rate in daily use, smoothly responding to swipes and gestures (wrist gestures to move through notification cards were enabled by default, by the way).
"Android Wear isn't responding, do you want to close it?" isn't a message that you should see on your watch. Ever.
Stability issues like this are presumably issues with software, and thus something that can be addressed with an update, but "Android Wear isn't responding, do you want to close it?" isn't a message that you should see on your watch. Ever. Not to mention that that's a confusing message — isn't the watch running Android Wear? What do I get when I close Android Wear?
These are some issues with the software on the Moto 360 Sport that need to be addressed. We even had the watch crash and require a reboot once while testing it on a run: I set our distance goal, started off, and a few minutes later when looking for an update on my progress was instead met by that dreaded gray-on-white alert. It'd crashed just a few hundred feet into my run and the preceding half mile of tracking was lost. A fitness watch that I can't rely on to track my fitness isn't something I necessarily need in my life.
It's also worth noting that I generally got worse battery life on the Moto 360 Sport than I did on the standard Moto 360 or with any other Android Wear smartwatch. While we can attribute some of that the more active fitness tracking, even on days where I didn't take it out for a run I had trouble making it from morning to the end of the day without having to return the watch to its wireless charger for a top-off. Maybe this is, again, a software issue — perhaps the same issue that's causing the watch to crash and miss inputs is the same that's draining the battery. But in the week I used the Moto 360 Sport, I never got through a single day with battery life left.
And if you want to use this as a fitness watch, be prepared to watch your battery drain even faster. The indoor run tracker will drain your battery at about 15 percentage points an hour; it turns out that running the heart rate sensor and gyroscope non-stop will pull down some serious juice. But if you want to go outside for a run without your phone, and thus use GPS to get some more accurate distance logging, be prepared to put your watch on a charger when you're done. GPS tracking alone drains the Moto 360 Sport's battery at about 30 percentage points an hour. Throw in a pair of Bluetooth headphones streaming music off the watch and you can kick that up to about 50 percentage points in an hour.
If you're the type that runs in the morning, this might be alright for you. You start off with a full charge and then recharge while you're cleaning up from the run or at some point in the day. If you run in the evening, however, odds are you won't have enough juice in the battery to make it through your run unless you've already topped up earlier in the day.
I'm not a serious runner, I'll be the first to admit that. I try to run and exercise regularly to keep myself generally fit — and to serve as a counterbalance to my love of hamburgers and tacos. I've also never been terribly keen on fitness trackers; I'm not running towards a number, no, I'm running towards a state of mind and fitness.
For a watch with all the power of Android Wear and the hardware power of a smartphone from just a few years ago, the lack of smarts in the Moto Fitness Running app is disappointing
In fact, the most effective fitness tracker for me, personally, was the Nike FuelBand, it wasn't a particularly great fitness tracker, but it was effective in motivating me to get out and move my butt. The FuelBand and its accompanying app provided motivation both in alerts that I needed to move and by posting my data to a public profile. I don't think anybody was actually actively monitoring my profile other than me, but it was a great motivator knowing that my times and distances — and the days that I'd failed to get out and hit my marks — were public data.
The Moto 360 Sport gives you some of that in the form of the fitness watch face, but it's entirely passive in that regard. You have to look at it and judge that, yes, you do need to go on a run to reach your target for the day. Maybe I'm not the target consumer for this, but out-of-the-box the Moto 360 Sport isn't particularly motivating.
While the Moto 360 Sport's fitness aspects are currently focused on running, it still falls somewhat short in that category. For a watch with all the power of Android Wear and the hardware power of a smartphone from just a few years ago, the lack of smarts in the Moto Fitness Running app is disappointing. It tracks and collates your data, sure, but it can't really tell you how you're doing, how you should adjust your goals, or even motivate you to maintain or pick up the pace while on a run. There's a lot more that the Moto 360 Sport could do to stand out on the software front.
And then there's the matter of style. We have no illusions about being grand arbiters of style here at Android Central. And it's true that fitness wearables have generally not been for the fashion conscious. But when we look at the Moto 360 Sport next to similarly-priced smartwatch offerings, aesthetically it falls far short.
Something like a Fitbit or a Jawbone you can get away with wearing through the day because they're relatively discrete (excepting the chunky Fitbit Surge). Something that looks like the Moto 360 Sport, not so much — it's thick, it's wide, the rubber strap and body almost seem to pull dust out of the air. You can wear this watch with your workout clothes, but you probably won't be able to pull it off for a night out on the town. Well, you might be able to get away with black color option; the white or red options are fun and certainly less staid, but they also scream "I'm a toy!" when worn anytime other than during a run.
It could have been better. It should have been better.
Moto 360 Sport: The Bottom Line
Android Wear has always had some pretty basic fitness tracking built in. With a gyroscope in every smartwatch and most Android Wear watches sporting heart rate sensors, they're already capable, if basic, fitness trackers. The addition of GPS and a fitness-friendly design are solid hardware steps for the Moto 360 Sport, but the software here is falling short.
What should be a high-powered all-sports tracker-and-watch is instead an exercise in compromised design. GPS and the AnyLight display improve the Moto 360 Sport's potential as a watch you can wear out on a run without having to drag along your smartphone, but those same additions also hurt the watch's overall usability. Having GPS for accurate run tracking is nice, but so is not thoroughly draining your battery in the process.
There are parts of the Moto 360 Sport that cannot be altered at this point. The AnyLight display will continue to be less impressive than its traditional LCD or OLED competitors, but at least it will perform well out in the sunlight. The aesthetic design leaves a lot to be desired, but there's only so much you can do to make a device that's meant to be worn during an hour-long run also work visually outside of the gym. And as much as I might bemoan how quickly using GPS while playing music to Bluetooth headphones drains the battery, it's an unavoidable fact of technology that using it requires power and we live in a world of limited-capacity batteries.
Those are things you know walking in. The software side of things can be improved — new Moto Fitness apps and the backing of some actual intelligence into the capabilities of those theoretical apps could make for measurable improvements to the 360 Sport's status as a legit fitness tracker. But right now that's not the case. We don't recommend products on the potential for future updates.
So for now, the Moto 360 Sport is a decent Android Wear smartwatch with an uninspired design, a few nice tech touches, and a fitness app that's really a glorified pedometer. It can be more, and it should be more, and maybe it will be more. But for now, it's not.
Should you buy? Do you run?
The Moto 360 Sport has the makings of a good fitness-centric smartwatch. Certainly it has the chips and radios to be one, and the software is an okay start. But it's just that: an OK start.
If you want a an Android Wear smartwatch with slightly-better-than-average fitness capabilities that might improve with future updates (though there's no promise of that), then consider the Moto 360 Sport. But if you want anything more than rudimentary run-tracking support, your best bet right now is to stick with a dedicated fitness tracker. The Moto 360 Sport has trouble living up to its name and the potential of its hardware and software guts, and that makes it difficult to give a full-throated recommendation.
Moto 360 Sport: Where to Buy
As of this writing the Moto 360 Sport has launched in the United Kingdom with an suggested retail price of £219.99, though you'll be able to get it elsewhere (like Amazon) for less. The U.S. launch is scheduled for January 7, 2016, with a retail price of $299.99.